Unrest In Memphis: Should Josh Pastner Be On The Hot Seat?

Posted by mlemaire on November 22nd, 2013

There probably aren’t too many college basketball coaches who have found themselves on the hot seat just one season after winning more than 30 games, but after a disappointing loss to Oklahoma State on Tuesday that left him 0-13 against teams ranked in the AP Top 25, Memphis coach Josh Pastner is probably feeling a bit toasty. Tuesday’s showdown with the Cowboys was supposed to be an opportunity for Pastner’s Tigers to prove that they were ready for and deserved national recognition. Instead it served as the latest public service announcement on why you should never trust Memphis in big games. Sure, Oklahoma State may have won the game anyway because Marcus Smart doesn’t belong in college basketball and Stillwater is not an easy place to play, but Memphis didn’t even make it competitive. It’s probably unfair to judge this year’s team based on its second game of the season, but Pastner shouldn’t get to be so lucky.

A Proven Recruiter, Josh Pastner Needs To Prove He Can Coach Too If He Wants To Keep His Job

A Proven Recruiter, Josh Pastner Needs To Prove He Can Coach Too If He Wants To Keep His Job

Pastner’s reputation as an up-and-coming coaching superstar didn’t really begin until he graduated fromArizona and became an assistant at his alma mater under Lute Olson in 2002. Pastner’s reputation as a tireless worker preceded him and he quickly used that work ethic to establish himself as one of the best recruiters in the entire country, luring stars like Channing Frye, Mustafa Shakur, and Chase Budinger to the desert with a combination of charm and persistence. That recruiting prowess (as well as Olson’s retirement) played a big role in Pastner moving on to become an assistant coach and lead recruiter at Memphis, working under the Godfather of Recruiting himself, John Calipari, for the 2008-09 season. Calipari resigned after the season to take the job with Kentucky and it looked like Pastner would follow Calipari to Lexington. But the college basketball coaching ranks were experiencing a bit of a youth movement and a passionate and energetic 31-year-old like Pastner was the poster boy for this shift.

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AAC M5: 10.30.13 Edition

Posted by CD Bradley on October 30th, 2013

AAC_morning5_header

  1. Louisville has been the first team mentioned in much of the discussion about the new handchecking rules in place for this season. Most of that commentary has been about how the rules will hurt the Cardinals, but coach Rick Pitino has maintained that he favors the new rules and thinks his team will benefit. The defending champions played their first exhibition game Tuesday night, and the new rules were the main storyline, but in a way that for a night vindicated Pitino while raising concerns about game length early in the season. An overmatched Kentucky Wesleyan team committed 41 fouls and saw five of its players foul out. Yahoo’s Pat Forde noted that the first half lasted more than an hour and agreed that the change would have a major impact on TV tip times, which Eric Crawford reported had one coach thinking the rules would soon go back. But Pitino, who served on the panel that recommended a similar change in the NBA a decade ago, said teams will adjust. “I know it will frustrate, you, me, the fans, but once everyone adjusts, you’ll wind up with a much better game,” Pitino said.  The best news for Pitino: Russ Smith scored 19 points and committed no fouls.
  2. Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie has one of the nation’s best backcourts, but a frontcourt full of questions. One of those questions was answered earlier this week when freshman Kenton Facey was declared eligible, and Ollie hopes that sophomore Phil Nolan can answer another. “I need one big man to step up and just separate themselves,” Ollie said. “I’d like to have two, three, four of them separate themselves, but I need one, and if not, we’ll do it by committee. They know exactly, I made it real plain and simplified it a lot, that how to get minutes is rebound.” Nolan said he had put on some weight over the offseason and hopes to build off a first taste of success late last season, when he averaged more than six rebounds over his last three games. “I think he comes back this year stronger physically. His endurance is better and he’s able to play more plays at a high level in a row,” associate head coach Glen Miller added. “A lot of freshmen take plays off here and there, but he’s playing a more complete game, and he’s doing everything a lot better.”
  3. SMU coach Larry Brown is also trying to figure out a frontcourt rotation with both returning players and newcomers trying to stake a claim. Brown said he’s intrigued by a pairing of two massive newcomers: junior college star Yanick Moreira and Villanova transfer Markus Kennedy, who has lost 40 pounds since leaving the Big East. “Markus looks great,” Brown told CBSSports.com. “I think he and Yanick are going to blend well together. They’re both team guys and I think those two will give us a real strong base to work with.” Brown said those two will pair with returning big men Shawn Williams and Cannen Cunningham, underscoring that perhaps his toughest challenge will finding the proper balance.
  4. While major college athletics officials are discussing revisions to the NCAA governance structure in Indianapolis this week, it appears a new division of the biggest schools is off the table for now. “From what I’ve heard in the association, I think people would like to have one Division I, but in some ways, a structure that will make certain differentiations between small conferences and big conferences,” Nathan Hatch, president at Wake Forest University and chairman of the Division I board of directors, told USA Today. “I think people like having one division.” That’s good news for the American, which risked being on the outside looking in had the five largest football conferences – the SEC, Big Ten, ACC, Big 12 and Pac-12 – left the others behind. Hatch sand other said some differentiations in rules are under consideration, but it’s unclear which side of the divide the AAC schools will end up on. Probably the biggest impact of a new super division would be the fate of the NCAA tournament, and that such an option seems out of the question can only be good news for college basketball’s crown jewel. Yahoo! reports that athletic directors, who took a back seat to college presidents a decade ago, appear set to reassert themselves in the revised structure.
  5. Former Memphis wing Adonis Thomas, a sophomore when he declared himself eligible for the NBA Draft after last season, was one of 20 early entrants who did not make an NBA opening night roster. Thomas wasn’t drafted, but was signed and then cut by the Hawks, then signed by the Nets with apparent designs on stashing him in the D League. Memphis resident and CBS columnist Gary Parrish argues that we shouldn’t necessarily weep for those who took their shot, but haven’t (yet) found a comfortable landing spot.
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Set Your DVR: Weekend Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on January 4th, 2013

setDVR

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

The first weekend in 2013 dives head first into conference season. There are some key match-ups within the Big Ten and Big 12 that will set the tone early for who to watch over the next two months. Let’s get to the breakdowns!

#11 Ohio State at #13 Illinois – 2:15 PM EST, Saturday on BTN (****)

While Craft brings experience and relentless defense, losing Sullinger and Buford, and the outsized production loads they accounted for, will be an enormous hurdle for the transitioning Buckeyes (Photo credit: Jeff Hanisch/US Presswire).

Aaron Craft needs to lock down the perimeter against Illinois (Photo credit: Jeff Hanisch/US Presswire).

  • It seems odd to say that these two top 15 teams are in need of a win, but that appears to be the case in this particular match-up. Ohio State is 0-2 in its two big games against Duke and Kansas, leaving the Buckeyes without a marquee victory thus far, while Illinois has lost two of its last three games after starting 12-0. Illinois’ shooting has been quite poor over the last three games: star guard Brandon Paul has gone 5-of-18, 3-of-12, and 4-of-10 in that span. Alongside D.J. Richardson, the Illini guards will face a tough defensive test from OSU guards Aaron Craft, Lenzelle Smith Jr., and Shannon Scott. Paul is always capable of a breakout game, but keep a close eye on his shooting as Illinois typically goes the way he goes. In their two losses this season to Duke and Kansas, the Buckeyes have faced dominant post players. Illinois does not have that asset per se, so that bodes well for the Buckeyes, even in Champaign. Big forward Tyler Griffey is Illinois’ best inside option, but he could have his hands full on defense if he is matched-up against DeShaun Thomas. Craft and the Buckeye perimeter defense is the key to this game and it doesn’t appear that the Illinois defense is strong enough to keep Thomas from scoring. While it will be a raucous home crowd for the Illini, I think OSU pulls off the win.

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2012-13 RTC Conference Primers: Conference USA

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 5th, 2012

Ryan Peters is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA. You can find him on Twitter @pioneer_pride and read his musings online at Big Apple Buckets and Pioneer Pride.

Top Storylines

  • A Conference in Considerable Flux – Before MemphisHoustonUCF, and SMU defect to the Big East – which officially makes a geographic mockery of the Big East’s name – C-USA will have one final season together as a full-fledged “upper-level” Division I conference. With only six NCAA Tournament teams and zero NCAA tournament victories in the past three seasons, however, can C-USA muster together a respectable showing for the 2012-13 campaign that doesn’t rival most mid-major conferences? Memphis is the only virtual lock to go dancing, yet several other programs (see MarshallUTEP, and Tulane) are on the rise and could conceivably end up on the right side of the tournament bubble come March. Still, it may be overly optimistic to think C-USA will break the two-team NCAA bid barrier that has eluded the conference since 2005.
  • A Run Towards Perfection – In his fourth season as Memphis’ head coach, Josh Pastner has an opportunity to do something his predecessor, John Calipari, did with apparent ease for three straight seasons prior – have his Tigers run the table in C-USA. With the conference slightly weaker heading into this season (according to Ken Pomeroy), Memphis has a real opportunity to put up a perfect 16-0 regular season mark against their conference foes. It will still prove to be difficult, especially when facing UCF and Marshall twice as part of their unbalanced schedule, yet Memphis returns four starters and is sitting on a potential NBA lottery pick in Adonis Thomas if the 6’7” small forward can stay healthy for much of the season.

Josh Pastner leads a talented home-grown roster in Memphis’ final season in C-USA.

  • Welcoming Back a Legend – Anytime you can hire a head coach with a resume such as the 71-year old Larry Brown, I guess you have to do it, given SMU’s desperation to hire a big name. After all, you’re talking about a guy with an NCAA championship and an NBA championship on his resume. The problem is – aside from his age and inability to coach through the initial contract at his last three destinations – Brown has been away from the college game for nearly 25 years, when he won the 1988 NCAA championship coaching Danny Manning (who, interestingly, is a new C-USA coach himself) and the Kansas Jayhawks. How much can the Mustangs reasonably expect from Brown under these conditions? The cupboard is bare with the graduation of leading scorer and most efficient player, Robert Nyakundi, and the removal of four players including starting point guard Jeremiah Samarrippas, so you have to wonder if Brown will have the patience to stick around long enough to fully rebuild a SMU program that hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 1993. One benefit from Brown’s hiring is that he has assembled an impressive coaching staff, which includes the Mustangs possible head-coach-in-waiting in Tim Jankovich.
  • New Coaching Blood – Including Brown, there are four C-USA programs that hired new coaches this offseason, which makes up a whopping one third of the entire league. The most notable new hires are Brown and the aforementioned Danny Manning, who left his assistant post at Kansas in an attempt to push Tulsa out of complacency. Donnie Tyndall (Southern Miss) and Jerod Haase (UAB) complete the list of coaches. It will be an uphill battle in season one; research has shown head coaches typically struggle in their first season at their newest destination. Perhaps these men can buck the trend and adapt quickly, although the more likely scenario has some of the league taking advantage and pushing ahead of these rebuilding programs for the time being. Well, maybe except for Rice (more on that later)…

Reader’s Take I


Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Memphis (14-2)
  2. Marshall (12-4)
  3. UTEP (11-5)
  4. UCF (10-6)
  5. UAB (9-7)
  6. Southern Mississippi (8-8)
  7. Tulane (7-9)
  8. East Carolina (7-9)
  9. Houston (6-10)
  10. Tulsa (5-11)
  11. SMU (5-11)
  12. Rice (2-14)
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Morning Five: 03.06.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 6th, 2012

SPONSORED: Want to see some NCAA Tournament action in person? AT&T is hosting a sweepstakes right now to go to the Final Four AND the National Championship game in New Orleans! To enter go to AT&T’s Sweepstakes Page for details to sign up.

  1. Normally when Yahoo! releases an exclusive report we pay attention because we are sure there some salacious details particularly when Charles Robinson is involved. Yesterday’s report by Robinson and Pat Forde falls far short of that. In their investigation, Robinson and Forde found that Syracuse may have failed to adhere to its internal drug testing policy. According to the report, at least ten players since 2001 have failed drug tests and been allowed to play when they should have been suspended if internal policies had been followed. The only reason this story is even somewhat noteworthy is that the authors assert that the NCAA could sanction the school for playing ineligible players although the extent of those penalties and even which teams would be involved is unknown at this time. For their part, the school released a generic statement saying that they are working with the NCAA on this matter.
  2. Memphis is starting to look like a dangerous team, having only lost three games since Christmas by a combined six points, and some additional help may be on the way in the form of freshman Adonis Thomas, who has been cleared to play this Thursday. Thomas, out since January with an ankle injury, should provide additional help for the Tigers and should not alter their offense too much, as he is not a high-volume shooter, but it will be worth watching to see what kind of shape he is in and how the dynamic of the team changes with his return.
  3. The wheels on the coaching carousel have started and yesterday two schools announced that they were firing their current head coaches. With their season just completed on Saturday, Brown announced that it was firing Jesse Agel after the team went 8-23 overall and 2-12 in the Ivy League to finish second to last. Agel, who went 39-79 in four seasons, had a 33.2% winning percentage, which was the third worst in the program’s history. Perhaps the most interesting part of the announcement is that former Syracuse killer T.J. Sorrentine was announced as the interim head coach, although with the school’s athletic director leaving at the end of June that appointment could be very short-lived.
  4. Randy Peele has had significantly more success at Winthrop, but even two Big South Conference titles (2008 and 2010) were not enough to overcome back-to-back losing seasons including a 20-loss season this year, which was the school’s first since the 1997-98 season. So the school announced yesterday that it was firing Peele, who finished 77-82 in five seasons. Unfortunately for Peele, his time at Winthrop was feast or famine, what with the two NCAA Tournament appearances and three losing seasons in his five years there with nothing in between. The school, which owes Peele $165,000 for the last year of his contract, will begin looking for a successor.
  5. With the regular season over, John Gasaway decided to run his Tuesday Truths column a day early. In this week’s edition, Gasaway takes a look back at the regular season conference numbers and provides brief previews of the conference tournaments. Most of the numbers are about what you would expect based on the standings, but some statistics (like those for a certain Big 12 team that is horrendous at making in-game defensive adjustments) might surprise a few people.
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Welcoming The Big East Newcomers: Memphis Tigers

Posted by mlemaire on February 24th, 2012

After adding a flurry of new members in December, The Big East apparently wasn’t done. Recently Memphis announced they had accepted an invitation to become the Big East’s 12th member and join the conference in all sports in 2013. We rolled out the red carpet of analysis for the other three new members, so we will do the same for Memphis. As always, keep in mind, it is far too early to tell what sort of impact these teams will have in their new conference, but that won’t stop us from pontificating.

The Past

In a contest of basketball history with the other new members, no one can touch the Tigers. They also have a troubled history. Eugene Lambert led the program to its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 1955 and since then Memphis has played in 22 NCAA Tournaments, has gone to 11 Sweet Sixteens, six Elite Eights, two Final Fours, and two National Championship games. They have been the stomping grounds for great players like Larry Finch, Keith Lee, Elliot Perry, Anfernee Hardaway, Lorenzen Wright, and most recently, Derrick Rose.

Hey, Remember These Guys?

Of course it also true that a whole host of those appearances and wins have been vacated by the NCAA thanks to widespread rules violations. Everybody remembers the most recent snafu where John Calipari and the program dealt with infractions like providing travel money to Rose’s brother as well as playing Derrick Rose under suspicion of a fraudulent SAT score that caused the NCAA to remove its Final Four appearance and record 38-win season. But only older Tiger fans will also remember former coach Dana Kirk and the parade of allegations against him that led to his ouster and the vacation of all the team’s wins from 1982-86.

Regardless of the less-than-shiny past, the school’s football program is in tatters, so it is safe to assume that the Big East had an eye towards retaining some of their luster and reputation on the basketball court, and Memphis is an excellent fit in that regard.

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Set Your TiVo: 02.01.12

Posted by EJacoby on February 1st, 2012

Evan Jacoby is an RTC correspondent and regular contributor. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Two previously Top 10 teams (UConn and Indiana) are in major slides right now and have a chance to regain confidence with road wins tonight, though both are in very difficult spots. Also, perhaps the biggest game of the C-USA season takes place this evening. Here’s what to look for:

#22 Indiana at #20 Michigan – 6:30 PM ET on Big Ten Network (****)

Can Indiana Stop Trey Burke's Dribble Drive Tonight? (AP Photo)

  • The Hoosiers have lost four of six games and are rapidly descending in the rankings. However, they are coming off a 103-point scoring performance in a win over Iowa and they hung tough at Wisconsin in their previous game before coming up short. If Tom Crean’s team is really turning the corner in the Big Ten, then they need to prove it tonight with nothing other than a victory. Cody Zeller has been outstanding in conference play and will be the go-to man tonight against a suspect Wolverines interior defense that allowed the freshman to go 8-10 with 18 points in their first meeting, a slim Indiana win at home. IU has been efficient offensively lately without being overly reliant on the three-point shot, which is a good formula on the road. But their chances at winning tonight really boil down to  their ability to stop Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr.’s penetration, as both players have the ability to carve up soft defenses. Indiana has an insanely high 110.4 defensive efficiency in conference, which will not cut it tonight. An improved defensive effort, however, will give them a great chance to win.
  • The Wolverines have held serve at home this season at 12-0 and will look to feed off the Ann Arbor crowd. As discussed above, this game is all about Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr. for Michigan. The two guards are the only players in double-figure scoring (14.1 PPG and 15.2 PPG, respectively) and should have plenty of opportunities to penetrate a weak Indiana half-court defense. If they are making plays and setting up Zack Novak, Stu Douglass, and Evan Smotrycz for open threes, UM is right where they want to be. Michigan has played much better defense at home this season and should not allow Indiana to shoot the lights out like they have been able to in some games.
  • It’s probably getting repetitive, but this game completely comes down to Indiana’s defensive intensity in the half-court. Michigan has the advantage at home and is a four-point favorite, but this would be no upset if Indiana won. If early in the game you see Burke bouncing the ball for 20 seconds during possessions and struggling to get into the paint, you’ll know IU is doing a good job on the perimeter. Prediction: Michigan comes through with a slim victory.

Connecticut at #15 Georgetown – 7:00 PM ET on ESPN2 (****)

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Morning Five: 01.18.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 18th, 2012

  1. There was quite a bit of news on the injury front yesterday. Louisville‘s Rakeem Buckles may have garnered the biggest headlines nationally as he appears to have one-upped Robbie Hummel as the most injury-ridden player in high-major college basketball. Just a few months after coming back from a torn ACL in his right knee that kept him out for nine months, Buckles tore the ACL in his left knee and is expected to be out the rest of this season and next season. (Yes, next season too.) For a team that has already been decimated by injuries, the loss of Buckles again and to such a significant injury must be a crushing blow. Rick Pitino will have his work cut out for him keeping this team together and getting anywhere near preseason expectations.
  2. Coming to Memphis as a McDonald’s All-American Adonis Thomas was saddled with significant expectations some of which he brought upon himself by pulling stunts like using a national television broadcast to announce his final list of schools. Now it appears his freshman campaign will come to a premature close due to an ankle injury as he will undergo what is expected to be season-ending surgery on his left ankle. Thomas, who was one of the most athletic freshmen in the country, has been erratic at times this season, but is still the team’s third leading scorer at 9.7 points per game and provided them with a versatile all-court weapon that they may miss as the season progresses.
  3. Buckles and Thomas may be bigger names, but the season-ending injury to Jenniro Bush due to a ruptured Achilles tendon will have a bigger impact on his team than that of the other two players. Bush, who leads Jackson State in scoring at 15.5 points per game, was the SWAC preseason player of the year. While the Tigers have struggled this year (4-14 overall and 2-4 in the SWAC), Bush has still managed to put up solid numbers albeit on high-volume shooting on a team where only two other players average more than five points per game. With Bush out, the Tigers, who would have been a long shot even with him, are all but eliminated from contention for the conference’s automatic bid.
  4. The Wooden Award announced its list of 25 midseason candidates yesterday. We are assuming that the GPA requirement did not knock out any candidates and even if it did the list actually appears to be pretty solid to us. You can argue that a few other players like Michael Glover should have been included, but it would be a little bit too much to expect them to have two Iona players on the list of 25 finalists, and we would have expected Tu Holloway to be on there a few weeks ago before that little incident in Cincinnati. Other than that we have to give them credit for including four players from high-major conferences not counting UNLV and Memphis who are really high-major programs playing in weaker conferences.
  5. Yesterday we provided you with a link to the methodology behind the Value Added statistic that Basketball Prospectus was going to unveil and as promised today we have their version of a Value Added statistic. As Drew Cannon notes this year’s results look “insane”. While some of you are going to immediately dismiss this statistic (and we were too when we first saw this year’s list), it is worth remembering that it is early in the season and sometimes you might need to tweak the formula a little bit. Cannon discusses the results a little bit and tries to rationalize them, but for now we will keep an eye on this and see how the rankings evolve as the season progresses.
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Checking In On… Conference USA

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 23rd, 2011

Steve Coulter—is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA. You can also find his musings online at http://www.duclarion.com/sports or on Twitter @broncos2thebowl

Reader’s Take

 

Caught on Film

Conference USA Player of the Week Alandise Harris had the throwdown of the week with this dunk in a win over Arkansas that earned the top spot on ESPN’s Top Plays.

The Week That Was

  • Memphis Falls In Maui, Picks Itself Up: The 13th ranked Memphis Tigers have had an up-and-down beginning of their season, finishing with a total of 196 points in their two victories, while shooting a miserable 33 percent from the field in their lone loss to No. 15-ranked Michigan. The Tigers failed to find an offensive spark against the Wolverines, losing 73-61 in the opening round of the Maui Invitational on Monday. Senior Charles Carmouche was the only Memphis player to shoot 50% in the game making six of his 12 attempted shots and finishing with a team-high 14 points. On Tuesday night, the Tigers redeemed themselves, holding on to narrowly defeat in-state foe Tennessee 99-97 in double overtime. Memphis was in control most of the way, but blew its ten-point halftime lead as the Volunteers surged late behind a stellar performance from junior Jeronne Maymon, who hit a game-tying shot in the closing second of regulation. He finished with 32 points and 20 rebounds while guard Will Barton had 25 points and 11 rebounds. Sophomores Antonio Barton and freshman Adonis Thomas helped the Tigers, providing a spark off the bench and finishing with 21 and 19 points, respectively. Antonio, the little brother of Will, hit a crucial jump shot in the second overtime with a little over a minute remaining.
  • Rice, Marshall, Tulane Off To Hot Starts: While the conference’s current leaders—Rice, Marhsall, Tulane (all 4-0)—will see tougher competition in weeks to come, the three teams have gotten to the top of the conference standings by throttling weaker competition. Junior swingman Arsalan Kazemi has the Owls started in the right direction, averaging a double-double through the first four contests. Similarly, junior swingman Kendall Timmons has been an integral part of the Green Wave’s early season surge out of the conference cellar. Timmons is shooting a pristine 66.7% from the field while averaging 18.7 points a game for Tulane. The Thundering Herd are the least shocking of the unbeatens remaining in conference; however, they’ve taken advantage of a weak early schedule. Marshall can prove themselves in weeks to come when they play a pair of Big East giants—Cincinnati and Syracuse—on the road. Read the rest of this entry »
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Set Your TiVo: Marathon of Hoops Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on November 15th, 2011

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @themulv on Twitter.  See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Twenty-four straight hours of college hoops is the dream scenario for those of us who are diehard fans of the sport.  Fortunately, it’s not a dream as ESPN brings back its Tip-Off Marathon for the fourth consecutive season.  Games got started at 12:01 AM EST this morning and go all the way till approximately 1:00 AM EST later tonight.  If you can’t sit in front of your TV for all twenty-four plus hours, then make sure you at least watch these four games.

Belmont @ #14 Memphis – 12:00 PM EST on ESPN HD (***)

Expectations are high for Memphis and Josh Pastner

  • Memphis brings high expectations into the 2011-12 season (Coaches Poll #9).  They return all five starters from last year’s team, several key reserves, and add McDonald’s All-American Adonis ThomasJosh Pastner has put together an incredible amount of talent that is going to get a stiff test in its first game of the season against an experienced Belmont team.  The Tigers need to greatly improve their turnover percentage (21.9% in 2010-11), three point shooting (32.9% in 2010-11), and defensive rebounding percentage (34.3% in 2010-11) in order to live up to those lofty expectations this season.  Pastner’s squad showed promise on the defensive end last year ranking 23rd and 25th in block percentage and steal percentage, respectively.  They need to maintain that defensive toughness while still trying to improve on the offensive end.
  • Belmont gave Duke all it could handle last Friday night in the opener at Cameron Indoor Stadium, losing 77-76.  Turnovers (17), missed threes (6-19), and the Blue Devils’ Mason Plumlee’s great work on the defensive glass (10 defensive rebounds) proved to be the difference.  Still, the Bruins showed excellent offensive balance in the loss with five players scoring in double figures.  Although the FedEx Forum is another difficult place to play, it’s a bit closer to home for Rick Byrd’s team and they have already experienced the ruckus of the Cameron Crazies.  Belmont needs to get off to a better start from the three-point line and limit turnovers to have a chance in this one.
  • This game will hinge on turnovers and second-chance points.  Belmont forced Duke to turn the ball over 19 times in the first game and ranked second in the nation last season in defensive turnover percentage.  As previously mentioned, Memphis turns the ball over a lot.  Memphis guard Joe Jackson in particular turned the ball over on 29.1% of his possessions last season.  Look for the Bruins to put all kinds of pressure on a still-young Tigers team to create easy baskets.  At the same time, Belmont relies heavily on second chance points.  The addition of the 6’7” Thomas to the Memphis lineup should certainly improve their defensive rebounding percentage.  If Thomas and the rest of the team can hit the glass hard in his first game, it will limit Belmont’s chances to pull an upset on the road.

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RTC Conference Primers: #9 – Conference USA

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 28th, 2011

Steve Coulter is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA.

Reader’s Take

Despite having two teams earn bids into the NCAA Tournament last season, Conference USA walked away without a win.

 

Top Storylines

  • Can Memphis Pull Away?: While the Tigers have fielded strong teams since John Calipari left after the 2008-09 season, they’ve never had quite as much talent in that time as they figure to show this season. With essentially every notable contributor returning, a huge gap could form quickly. On the other hand, chemistry rarely comes instantly, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Memphis have a double-digit loss season, either.
  • Central Florida Continues To Build: Thanks partially to a soft non-conference schedule of six opponents with KenPom ratings 200 or lower and a non-D-I matchup, UCF cracked the national rankings for the first time in school history. While the Knights came down to Earth once conference play began, momentum is important no matter how it’s established. After winning two postseason games, we’re excited to see how the UCF follows up on a surprising season.
  • Realignment Hovers Over C-USA: Perhaps no single conference houses as many schools that were rumored to be on their way out than Conference USA, even if its membership ultimately stayed intact. East Carolina and UCF are frequently connected to the Big East; Memphis’ basketball program is as valuable a commodity as there is outside of the Power Six, and in its shakier days, the Big 12 could have found itself eyeing the Texas schools as a contingency plan in case the Longhorns and Sooners packed up for the Pac-12. It didn’t come to pass, but you have to wonder just what C-USA will look like in the long term.

This Year's Tigers, Led By Will Barton, Could Be Pastner's Most Talented Memphis Team Ever

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Read the rest of this entry »
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20 Questions: Who is the Most Overrated Team in America?

Posted by rtmsf on October 25th, 2011

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him on Twitter @botskey.

Question: Who is the Most Overrated Team in America?

Last week I made one fan base happy when I chose Wichita State as the most underrated team in the country heading into the 2011-12 season. This time around, another fan base is bound to have an equal but opposite reaction. At the end of every year, we college basketball fans look back on the season and ponder how we ever ranked a handful of teams so high back in November while we wonder how on earth we overlooked the team that “came out of nowhere” and made the Sweet Sixteen or Elite Eight. This piece will attempt to identify the team that is the most overrated as we begin the year. Of course this could completely blow up in my face but what fun is it without that possibility? I have a few teams in mind for this dubious distinction but one highly-rated club in particular has many blinking red lights at this point in time. No, it’s not Duke or Baylor with their questions at the point guard position. Nor is it Arizona, who lost Derrick Williams, or Marquette without the presence of Jimmy Butler. Those teams all have question marks but the team I’m most concerned about is the Memphis Tigers.

Josh Pastner's Team Looked Good Against Arizona, But What About the Rest of the Year?

Josh Pastner’s team won 25 games last year but could only manage a fourth place finish in a mediocre Conference USA. To their credit, the Tigers rebounded from six regular season conference losses to win the conference tournament and give Arizona one heck of a run in the NCAA Tournament. Memphis returns everyone from last year’s team sans Will Coleman but this is still an extremely young group short on experience and cohesion. The Tigers turned the ball over an average of 15 times per game last year, with primary ball handlers Joe Jackson, Will Barton and Chris Crawford combining for over half of that total. Changing a sloppy style of play in one offseason would be quite an achievement for Pastner and his staff but expecting that type of improvement is a bit too much in my estimation. Memphis probably won’t average 15 giveaways again but a number approaching that will effectively ruin any chance they have of making a big postseason run.

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